Hey Psych2goers! Have you ever wondered what it meant to have good social skills? Why some people seem to just get along better with others? Well, we may have some answers.
While social skills are hard to concretely define, experts agree that they are a set of learned behaviors and that they ensure rewarding social interactions (Merrell and Gimpel 1998). With that said, the good news is that even if you struggle with a couple of things on this list, you can work on those skills and improve! Here are 8 things people with good social skills do.
1. Actively listen
When you have conversations with someone, are you really listening or planning your next sentence? Are they listening to you? There’s a social skill called active listening, which ensures that you are listening to people the best you possibly can. Various gestures and behaviors come together to form active listening, including some others on this list. But at its core, this skill helps someone feel heard, valued, and validated. Wouldn’t you want to feel that way?
If this is something you may need to improve on, try practicing a few of the common behaviors in your conversations. Paraphrasing, or repeating something back to someone after they speak, is a great way to show the other person that you heard and understood what they said (Doyle 2020).
2. Understand non-verbal cues
Do you find face to face conversations more fulfilling than phone calls? Does it help you better understand what someone is trying to say? That’s because in-person conversations are packed full of non-verbal cues that catch the attention of people with good social skills.
There are a variety of non-verbal cues to pick up on during conversations. Some common examples include facial expressions for different emotions, posture, and tone of voice (Cherry 2020). Understanding and reacting to these actions is important because they can help you relate to someone else and gain a better understanding of what they’re trying to say.
3. Ask good questions
Have you ever had a conversation that felt extremely one-sided? Maybe you or the other person continued to talk a little too much? First of all, don’t worry if this sounds like you. When we are excited by something, we tend to talk about it a lot, and that’s okay every once in a while! But if you find yourself constantly talking more than the other person, asking more questions can help even that out.
According to a 1994 book on social skills, asking questions is such an important social skill because they can turn conversations in a better or worse direction. Asking questions to involve someone more in the conversation is great, but remember to be mindful of the way it comes across. A lot of the time, questions that are either closed off or sound aggressive may leave the other person feeling more stressed rather than included (Hargie et al. 1994).
4. Make small talk
Many psychologists and experts agree that small talk may not really be so small. For one, it can get rid of some awkward silences. But it can also help you showcase your interests and personality in a casual way (Maybusch). The ability to make small talk can make you a more versatile, well-rounded person.
If the idea of small talk sends chills down your spine, don’t worry! Luckily, this is a skill you can practice anywhere. Elevator rides, waiting in line, or if you happen to see someone you haven’t seen in a while. Small talk is a great skill to have, and one you can keep working on every day.
5. Look interested
Have you ever talked to someone, and they just didn’t look interested? Along with non-verbal cues from the other person, people with good social skills pay close attention to their own body language to avoid coming off this way.
So, how do you look interested? Well, a few common ways to maintain positive social body language during a conversation are turning towards the person talking, maintaining appropriate eye contact, and nodding for understanding.
Do you ever feel like you share more with your friend than they do with you? Part of having good social skills is being able to empathize with others and balance the conversation by also sharing relevant personal details. This makes people feel understood and they aren’t alone in their feelings, whatever they may be.
People with good social skills are often able to build upon a conversation by sharing some personal stories in order to empathize (Hargie et al 1994). Keep in mind though, that this kind of feedback is different from one-upping the person, because by sharing, you are looking to reinforce your understanding and not comparing yourself to them.
7. Support the other person
In addition to listening, it’s important to acknowledge, validate, and support what someone else is saying. Not only do they feel heard, but they will likely feel more confident that their words are resonating with you and making sense.
However, this isn’t to say that you always have to agree with someone to have good social skills or even to continue supporting them. In this case, support means that you acknowledge and validate what someone is saying by reinforcing them. Common examples of this reinforcement are statements like “I see what you’re saying”, “That’s right” and “I understand” (Hargie et al 1994). The ultimate goal of doing this is to uplift the other person, and make them feel heard.
8. Stay tactful when they’re upset
Of course, good social skills don’t remove any potential conflict between two people. However, those who know how to handle an emotion-heavy situation with tact and grace are more capable of maintaining relationships through some conflicts here and there.
When those with good social skills find themselves in a conflict, they are more likely to handle it well. For example, you would find them saying “no” firmly but respectfully, and tactfully expressing any frustration (Merrell and Gimpel 1998).
We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the things people with good social skills do. Do you have good social skills? Let us know. Thanks for reading!
- Cherry K. “Types of Nonverbal Communication” (2020). Verywell Mind. Social Psychology. Morin A, reviewed by. 27 July 2020.
- Doyle A (2020). “Important Active Listening Skills and Techniques”. The Balance Careers. 14 May 2020.
- Hargie O, Saunders C, Dickson D (1994). Social Skills in Interpersonal Communication. Routledge. Retrieved from Google Books.
- Merrell KW, Gimpel GA (1998). Social Skills of Children and Adolescents: Conceptualization, Assessment, Treatment. Psychology Press. Retrieved from Google Books.
- “6 Tips To Improve Your Social Skills”. Maybusch. N.d. https://maybusch.com/6-tips-improve-your-social-skills/